Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: June 29, 2018 Guest: Norman Ornstein, Mara Gay, Evan Siegfried, Maria Teresa Kumar, Zerlina Maxwell
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Programming note on those big protests planned for around the country tomorrow, people demonstrating against the Trump administration`s taking kids away from their parents.
Here is that map of all the planned rallies again. Not a particularly helpful map but at least shows you that lots of rallies will be happening.
The biggest is expected to be in D.C. I want to tell you, though, that MSNBC is going to be live all day tomorrow with coverage not just from what`s expected to be the big rally in Washington but from rallies all around the country.
So you -- if you are not going to be there or not looking out your window at it, you may be able to see it right here.
That does it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD. Steve Kornacki in for Lawrence.
Good evening, Steve.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel, and thank you for that.
I am Steve Kornacki in for Lawrence O`Donnell. And, tonight, we begin with the battle over -- in Congress over President Trump`s next Supreme Court nominee.
The President announcing today that he will name his nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday, July 9th. The President is saying he will interview six or seven candidates, including two women. That he may meet with some of them this weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The President also saying it is inappropriate to ask candidates what they think about Roe v. Wade. Here is what the President had to say on the subject earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK HOST: Are you going to ask your nominees beforehand how they might vote on Roe versus Wade?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that`s a big one and probably not. They are all saying, don`t do that. You don`t do that. You shouldn`t do that.
But I`m putting conservative people on, and I`m very proud of Neil Gorsuch. He has been outstanding. His opinions are, you know, so well written, so brilliant. And I`m going to try and do something like that, but I don`t think I`m going to be so specific.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Republicans in Congress are worried the Supreme Court battle may have ramifications for the midterm elections.
According to "POLITICO," senior-level House Republicans believe donors will redirect, excuse me, large contributions toward elections for Senate Republicans, dealing a severe blow to House Republicans` efforts to remain in control of that chamber.
Even if the President realizes this is a matter of extreme importance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Justice Kennedy`s retirement makes the issue of Senate control one of the vital issues of our time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, in the decision to confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court, Republicans, at least on paper, have the votes. Fifty-one of them to 49 for the Democrats.
That`s thanks to the elimination of the 60-vote threshold for judicial appointments, the filibuster. They did away with that on Supreme Court picks last year.
Nothing, though, is a given in Washington, especially in a Senate where Republicans only have a two-vote majority. And functionally, it may only be one. We`ll get to that in a minute.
President Trump huddling with key senators who could impact the Supreme Court decision, including Republicans Chuck Grassley, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, as well as Democrats Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp.
So what does the path look like? What does the math look like in the Senate?
Democratic activists, they are up in arms. They want to fight this. They want to stop this. Republicans, at least their leaders, they say they want to get this through before the midterm election.
What does the math look like? So let`s take you through it.
Again, we say, on paper, 51-49 for the Republicans. When I day functionally, it may be less. That`s because we know John McCain, he has been sidelined for a while now. And so, if John McCain were to remain sidelined as this process plays out, that`s 50 Republican votes.
That`s the bare minimum. That`s no margin for error. That`s if you lose one as the Republicans, you lose this battle on a partisan vote.
So let`s say there were 50. Let`s say McCain remains sidelined, and there are 50 votes here for the Republicans. What do they have to worry about when it comes to that potential for a defection?
These are five Republicans to watch for various reasons, to keep an eye on. Jeff Flake, he is retiring. He has been blocking some Trump judicial picks for other courts. He said, though -- yesterday, he seemed to throw cold water on the idea he would do that with a Supreme Court pick.
The two who, really, folks are talking about right now, it`s these two. It`s Collins, it`s Murkowski -- Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski. Both of them pro-choice, both of them sending some signals in the last 24 hours that, hey, this may be a little different in their minds than, say, last year`s battle over Neil Gorsuch where they voted to confirm Gorsuch.
Both of them also indicating that maybe that issue of Roe v. Wade could be a little more preeminent in their considerations on this. We don`t know. It`s a big if.
Would they actually go to the lengths of voting no, joining with Democrats trying to stop a Trump pick? But they`ve, at least, sent some signals that have people talking about that.
The math if they were to go, if you start at 50 for the Republicans and you lose Collins and Murkowski, that`s a really ugly four. But you`re down to 48 for the Republicans, so at that point, you`d be short.
But you got to flip this around. And, remember, we`re talking about some Democrats here, too. A lot of Democrats running for re-election this year in states that Donald Trump carried in 2016, some of them by giant margins.
So here is what you`re looking at here. Manchin, West Virginia, up for re- election. Trump won it by 42. Heitkamp in North Dakota, Trump took it by 36 -- Missouri. I meant to circle it in here. Donnelly in Indiana, Trump took it by 20.
Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, they all voted for Neil Gorsuch last year. They`re all facing the voters in these states in a few months. So if they were to side with this pick, if you had 48 coming in from that last screen and d you got these three, that would put you at 51.
We also mention, by the way, he`s not up this year, but Doug Jones in Alabama. Remember, he took that seat a few months. That`s a state Trump won by nearly 30 points. He is up in 2020. Again, there will be a lot of pressure on him.
So there are a lot of Democrats, in theory, at least, who could be in play here to vote for this nominee for some very self-serving political reasons. They want to get re-elected. That`s balanced with that threat -- that potential threat from Collins and from Murkowski.
Joining us now to talk more about this -- Norm Ornstein, a leading congressional scholar, co-author of the book "One Nation after Trump"; Evan Siegfried, Republican strategist and the author of "GOP GPS"; and Mara Gay, a member of "The New York Times" editorial board.
And, Norm, let me start with you. So on that, the signals being sent there by Collins, Murkowski, folks trying to decide that, you know, I was looking back at the history of these Supreme Court nominations from Republican presidents over the last generation or so.
And, wow, not a lot of breakage there in the Republican Party, typically, on these things. What do you make of these signals from Collins and Murkowski?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, RESIDENT SCHOLAR, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Well, what we`ve heard from Susan Collins to this point is that, basically, she said that she is not going to let individual policy positions get in the way.
And we know, frankly, that as long as there are qualifications there, we know that any of these nominees is going to avoid saying things like I would not vote to keep Roe v. Wade. They`re going to punt and evade and dissemble as much as possible. And under those circumstances, I find it unlikely that Collins will vote against a particular nominee.
Now, on the other side, Steve, Joe Manchin who one would think would be a pretty reliable vote at this point, given with what happened with Neil Gorsuch, has said that what would really trip him up is if somebody wasn`t going to support the Affordable Care Act.
And one of the main nominees or potential nominees, a woman, Amy Barrett from Indiana, at Notre Dame Law School, took a very strong position against the Supreme Court`s decisions upholding the constitutionality of the ACA.
So that might actually create an interesting possibility where the pressure could be on those two Republican women. And it would be intense, I think, from within Maine and even in Alaska.
KORNACKI: And, Mara, Norm points to something interesting there. The way these confirmation battles -- there`s almost a science to them, at this point, in terms of the precision of how these nominees are picked, all the considerations about age, longevity, all of that. But also, it`s that lack often of a paper trail that`s going to cause problems.
Remember, Robert Bork, a generation ago, he said and written all these inflammatory things. It sunk him. Now, there`s this premium and you got these folks who are groomed for years. They don`t put, in a lot of cases, the inflammatory things out there.
If the nominee is presented here who folks suspect is very conservative, folks suspect is the kind Democrats want to sink, but on paper, you don`t have that inflammatory track record, does that make it harder for Democrats like Manchin to come out and make a move?
MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD LEAD OPINION WRITER ON STATE AND LOCAL AFFAIRS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It does. I mean, I think what`s going to be interesting is to watch whether Collins and Murkowski are able to have some kind of moderating influence on the President`s pick. Because I think it is going to be difficult to confirm a nominee without their support.
And I think it`s also going to look bad. I mean, you have these two Republican women, and it puts them in that position again of -- actually elevates them in a good way. And so I think, you know, we might see a moderating effect in that sense.
But the other thing that I think Democrats need to do, kind of outside this process, is they need to provide as much cover as possible for the Democratic -- the Democrats who are actually -- who you pointed out, who are fighting for their seats. And they need to give cover to these folks and put the pressure actually on the Republican side. They need to flip that pressure.
And that`s something that, you know, protests can do. That`s something that Democrats, you know, need to get better around because Republicans have been motivated around this issue for a very long time.
KORNACKI: And that`s an interesting point, too, Evan, I mean. And "The New York Times" has this story today. We can put a little -- a clip up on the screen, I think, about the sort of long-term campaign here from this administration -- from Republicans to jar this seat loose, to get Kennedy to retire.
They said, you know, in subtle and not so subtle way, the White House waged a quiet campaign to ensure that Mr. Trump had a second opportunity in his first 18 months to fulfill one of his most important campaign promises to his conservative followers, that he would change the complexion and direction of the Supreme Court.
It`s a fascinating story but it does point to what Mara is saying that, among issues for sort of key blocks in the Republican Party, court pick is first among equals.
EVAN SIEGFRIED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, there are plenty of Republicans who didn`t like Donald Trump and thought about not voting for him and sitting out the 2016 election, but they said, you know what, the Supreme Court is too important and that`s why we`re going to do it.
And when you hear that there were people on the Democratic side saying there was no difference between Hillary and Trump, this is the exact rebuttal to that.
I think the really important thing here is we`re talking about Roe v. Wade and whether or not it should be overturned. And I think there are a lot of Republicans, like Focus on the Family, who are salivating at the prospect of it.
But at the same time, it would be a strategic error for Republicans to have Roe v. Wade overturned. Of women 44 and under, 76 -- or 74 percent of them believe that it should stay.
The majority of the country, over two-thirds, believes -- 73 percent of independents and 43 percent of Republicans, which is a very high number for Republicans overall -- it would be a gift, politically, to Democrats. But I think --
KORNACKI: But when you look at that list -- I mean, we keep -- Trump makes reference to the 25. You know, the 25 that have been out there for a couple years. These are folks who`ve got, you know, the good housekeeping seal of approval from the sort of leading conservative groups.
It certainly doesn`t look like the -- and we never know how they`re going to vote when the case comes before them, but it certainly looks like the direction here is to go for a pick who is likely to have, you know, some skepticism on Roe.
SIEGFRIED: Well, I think that Roe is one of the many issues out there, but the President said he`s not going to ask about Roe. And he doesn`t need to. What he needs to ask about is stare decisis and that`s judicial precedence. Will the judges or the potential justice honor that?
And if the potential justice says, no, they`re open to reinterpreting the law, that`s a signal. And you`re going to see that play out heavily in the confirmation hearings. Every Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee is going to be asking about their opinion of stare decisis.
And I think that you`re going to have Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly put in a -- between a rock and a hard place because, politically, they`re going to have to appeal to, A, the Trump voters that they need in their states because these are states that Trump won by overwhelming numbers, and/or, b, appeal to the liberal base which they need to get out.
KORNACKI: And that story, too, the idea of this campaign -- this sort of behind-the-scenes campaign the administration waged. They looked at Kennedy, 80 years old. They said, look, if we could entice him to retire, here`s a golden opportunity to get another 40 years.
Are Democrats reading that story, looking at what was going on behind the scenes and saying, geez, why wasn`t the last administration doing this with Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
GAY: Oh, yes. I think there are a lot of lessons there. I think, in some ways, Democrats should learn how to be more like Republicans in that sense. I mean, it was very Lyndon Johnson-esque, which was what some of us were talking about at the board.
And, you know, I think that the Democrats have been outmaneuvered, but they have also been out-organized by Republicans who have spent kind of 40 years in the wilderness getting themselves together and their voters are motivated around these issues.
And what Evan is talking about is really important because Roe v. Wade -- and I -- not that I would accuse the Republicans of cynicism, but Roe v. Wade is a very powerful motivation. And so, in some ways, you don`t really want to overturn it. You actually just want to keep it motivating these voters.
I mean, there are a host of other issues that a very conservative court would bring you. They could rule on affirmative action, on campaign finance laws, on issues with corporations, on, again, unions, all the things that we have seen even this week. So it`s a whole wish list that -- and it`s kind of payday.
ORNSTEIN: And you know --
SIEGFRIED: And the White House strategy, I would just say --
ORNSTEIN: Steve --
SIEGFRIED: -- it`s the first time that "The New York Times" has accused the White House of being competent. And, two, you know, if President Trump were to take that, be nice to other people, he`d get a lot more done.
KORNACKI: Norm, you`ve written a lot about Congress --
KORNACKI: -- I just want to ask you this quickly, though, because it occurs to me there`s a longer-term question here where you`ve got Democrats who are up in arms over this. They already think that the Gorsuch seat was stolen.
What`s the end game? If Republicans -- let`s say they get the votes for this. You know, 51, 52, whatever it takes, they get it. They get the appointment, and Democrats get the Senate this November. What would they do with that power when it comes to this?
ORNSTEIN: Well, what -- you know, that`s going to be a very difficult thing for them. If there`s still a Republican president, obviously, there isn`t a whole lot that they can do. The real trouble is going to come or the real challenge is going to come when there`s a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate.
And we`ve already seen Trump fill one-eighth of all the appeals court seats in the country. All of these judges, by the way, Steve, including the ones who are on the list for Supreme Court, have been vetted through the Federalist Society.
They don`t need to ask any questions. The President doesn`t need to ask any questions. They know just where they`re coming from.
And the question for Democrats is going to be, after Trump and the -- and Mitch McConnell have packed the courts, what do they do? Do they enlarge the Supreme Court? Do they add seats to appeals courts believing that this has been done illegitimately?
And it should also be added -- and I think this was a point made earlier that needs to be reinforced. What McConnell has done, more than anything, is to put some of these Democrats from seats that Trump took in a very difficult position.
Vote against a court nominee and it motivates Republicans in their states, which are red states, to turn out against them.
Vote in favor and you`re going to lose some of that intense support from Democrats who are now very much activated because this is a huge issue not just on choice. Although that`s the main thing, voting rights, campaign finance reform, gay rights, and a whole host of other areas where all of these people have been vetted by the Federalist Society, and we know just how they`ll vote.
KORNACKI: And, Mara, I`ll give you the last word quickly.
GAY: Sure. I just want to say that what Democrats need to do, and liberals and, frankly, people at this point who care about democracy, is they need to vote. I mean, that is the big advantage that Democrats have. And that means, you know, pulling the levers of this demographic change. That`s where the power is.
KORNACKI: Yes. And that`s it. The Republicans say this is going to be done before the midterm. And in the midterm, we`ll see how voters react to whatever happens over the next few months.
Evan Siegfried, Mara Gay, Norm Ornstein, thanks to you.
And coming up, important breaking news on the immigration crisis at the border. The "Washington Post" with news just in tonight about what will happen to families that are detained together. That`s next.
And if you want to know where the President has gotten some of his policy ideas, you may want to look back to the 1990s. That is coming up as well.
KORNACKI: And there is some breaking news tonight from "The Washington Post" about the turmoil at the Mexican border. The headline from "The Post" reads -- Trump administration plans to detain migrant families for months.
Devlin Barrett is reporting that Justice Department lawyers wrote in a notice to a federal judge that, quote, the government will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings.
Detaining children for the pendency of immigration proceedings means they will likely be detained longer than the 20-day limit set by that settlement in the Flores case as the Trump administration tries to navigate dueling court orders that families need to be held together while in detention.
As far as we know tonight, over 2,000 immigrant children are still separated from their parents in government-run centers around the country as the agencies responsible for the detained immigrants are taking hits from their own watchdogs as well as members of Congress.
The Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security released a report earlier today that is highly critical of ICE, the immigration`s and custom`s enforcement.
The report says that ICE`s inspections of its detention centers, quote, do not ensure adequate oversight or systemic improvements in detention conditions, with some deficiencies remaining unaddressed for years.
Joining us now, NBC`s Cal Perry. He is in El Paso County, Texas. And Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor.
Cal, let me start with you on the news tonight. So I think -- set this up properly. And tell me if I`m getting this wrong here, but the Trump administration, originally, was saying they want this zero-tolerance policy at the border. And because of this Flores consent decree that said you can`t keep the kids for more than 20 days, therefore they had to separate them.
Now, they`re saying because of this new ruling this week, they`re going to still do zero-tolerance but now they keep the kids with the parents for as long as that takes, presumably much longer than 20 days.
So it sounds like they are setting up for a challenge here of some sort, legally, with this Flores consent decree. Is that right?
CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS GLOBAL EDITOR FOR GLOBAL CONTENT: A hundred percent. And they`re about to drop, I think -- the Trump administration -- potentially a political bomb, depending on how the judge reacts to this judicial note.
So the key phrase in this -- and I`m not a lawyer, but the key phrase in this is throughout the pendency. That means, throughout the process that the court will take in dealing with these families.
What does that mean? Well, in speaking to immigration lawyers in the country, and we`ve done so -- NBC News has done so -- since this report came out, it means that the U.S. government could be indefinitely detaining families.
There is such a strenuous backlog of court cases, of immigration cases, in this country. And when you factor in what has happened over the last couple weeks, it`s likely that we could be indefinitely detaining these families.
The second point is that it`s quite likely a judge will respond to this and say, no, you need to give these people ankle bracelets. You need to release them and then they will come back for their court date. That`s something, Steve, that we have been doing in this country for years, if not a decade.
The final point I want to make -- and this is the political point. If the judge says you got to put ankle bracelets on these people and you need to let them go and they`ll come back for their court date, the Trump administration is going to say the U.S. courts, the judges, are allowing these illegal immigrants to come into this country, to invade this country.
They will use that kind of political language, and they will do so at a time in which this country is searching for its next Supreme Court justice.
Add to all of that, where are we going to put these families, thousands of families? We know that the Department of Defense is getting involved. We know that they`re scouting these military locations.
But imagine indefinite detention of families that have tried to enter this country on a military base while this administration is trying to nominate a new Supreme Court justice. It`s going to be a heck of a summer, Steve.
KORNACKI: But, Maria Teresa Kumar, on the politics of this, what`s interesting to me is we saw countless polls now that this family separation policy, this idea of holding the adults and moving the kids separately, that was overwhelmingly unpopular in the polls. It seems to have moved the Trump administration.
What interested me, though, there have been several polls that have come out in the past week and said if you`re not going to have a family separation policy, what should you do in the case of a family that is caught crossing the border illegally?
And what Cal is describing, actually, holding the family together in detention as opposed to releasing back into the United States pending a future court date, that option of holding the family together in detention is significantly more popular across both parties.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VOTO LATINO: Well, part of it is because most Americans don`t actually know how it was done before.
And let`s be clear, the crisis at the border was not a crisis at the border until President Trump put his finger in it and decided that he wanted to use and sensationalize this idea of families traversing three or four countries to save their children because they are seeking refuge and asylum. The President decided this is better optics for him because he has nothing else.
And let`s be clear, what was happening before under previous administrations, not just under President Obama but other -- also President Bush, when families would come to the border, seeking asylum, they would do exactly that.
They would go before a court. They would receive an ankle bracelet. And then they would be asked to come back later. Not only did that save families, but it also saved billions of dollars to the taxpayer.
Ninety -- close to 99 percent of the families that received those ankle bracelets came back and showed up for a court date. So they were responsible, they recognized the process -- they were informed of the process. And they were actually able to go ahead and live their life without adding tax -- unnecessary tax burdens to the American people.
KORNACKI: And, Cal, separately, just quickly here, there`s an NBC News report today, too, about this family separation. We thought this was a policy the administration -- we know it`s a policy they announced in April. But there was also a pilot program they were running a few months before it turns out?
PERRY: Yes. So just before the Trump administration came into power, it does seem like there was a pilot program being run here in the El Paso area. El Paso runs right up against Suarez. And they were testing this out as a measure of deterrence, separating these kids out.
The problem is the U.S. government has not given us any month-by-month numbers. We don`t know how quickly it increased. We also don`t really have a good grasp on why it is there are still 2,047 children in government detention not being returned to their families if there already had been a pilot program in place.
If the U.S. government was already running a pilot program and they were doing so without keeping track of these children, why was that happening?
KORNACKI: All right, Cal Perry down there in El Paso County. Maria Teresa Kumar. Thank you both for joining us.
And coming up, a rare story about Donald Trump, a story about him -- get this -- apologizing to someone and what that all has to do with his big upset victory over Hillary Clinton. You want to stay tuned for this one.
KORNACKI: Well, he announced his presidential candidacy by attacking the globalists in office. He railed against bureaucrats in Brussels who were pursuing a European superstate that threatened America`s national identity.
He told his audience that his presidency would be built on a new nationalism focusing on the forgotten Americans. He wanted a wall across the entire southern border. Oh, and he was denounced as a bigot by Donald Trump.
Pat Buchanan was his name. They called him Pitchfork Pat. And if you really want to understand the moment we`re living in now, then you might as well go back to its roots. Back to the 1990s. Back when everything seemed to be humming in America.
There was low unemployment. The stock market was surging. Peace and prosperity for everyone to enjoy. But that was the surface.
Beneath the surface, there was sweeping transformation -- economic, technological, demographic. And with all of that, there were rising tensions. And then from the right, a cable television pundit who saw a chance to take advantage of it with a new kind of populism.
Pat Buchanan went straight from CNN to the presidential campaign trail in 1992, challenging the sitting president in the Republican primaries, George H.W. Bush. He had won the Golf War in 1991, but Buchanan said, meh, it was all a waste.
Bush wanted a massive free trade deal with Mexico -- NAFTA they called it - - but Buchanan said that was a sellout, a sellout of workers, a sellout of America`s sovereignty. America First was his slogan.
A few years before, Ronald Reagan had granted amnesty to millions who had come to the United States illegally and then built life, but Buchanan said enough was enough. It was time to roll back legal immigration. And also, if you wanted to stop illegal immigration, he said, you needed a great big wall right along the Mexican border.
America`s demographics were beginning to change and Buchanan declared that nothing less than the country`s identity was at stake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT BUCHANAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS: We must not trade in our sovereignty for a cushion seat at the head table of anybody`s new world order.
BUCHANAN: Today, we call for new patriotism where Americans begin to put the needs of Americans first. For a new nationalism, wherein every negotiation, be it arms control or trade, the American side seeks advantage and victory for the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Republican leaders stayed away from Pat Buchanan, no governors endorsing him, no senators, no members of Congress. What he represents, they said, that`s not us, that`s not our party.
But then came New Hampshire. Running against a sitting president in 1992, Buchanan got almost 40 percent of the vote. And some say that Bush never recovered from that. Buchanan couldn`t win the nomination, but he did get more than three million votes in `92. And Bush ended up a one-termer.
Globalization continued to speed up. The face of America continued to change. Four years later, in 1996, Buchanan went for it again. This time Bob Dole was the heavy favorite, but in Iowa, Buchanan nearly knocked him off. And then eight days later in New Hampshire, the unthinkable -- Pitchfork Pat finished first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUCHANAN: The establishment is coming together. You can hear them right now. The fax machines and the phones are buzzing in Washington, D.C.
So we got to get together. Somebody`s got to get out and take on this guy. We got to have one guy take him on.
They`re going to come after this campaign with everything they got. Do not wait for orders from headquarters. Mount up, everybody, and ride to the sound of the guns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And in that moment, it seemed like Pat Buchanan might actually run away with the Republican nomination.
Democrats, they were almost giddy. He was so extreme, they figured, he`d be easy to beat if he ever got that nomination.
Republicans, they were terrified. They were stunned to learn that so many of their own voters didn`t mind Pitchfork Pat`s rhetoric. Were they losing control of their own party?
Well, it turned out they weren`t, at least not yet. In `96, the establishment had enough juice to stop Pat Buchanan. Dole did go on to win the nomination, did go on to lose in November.
And Buchanan was starting to get tired of the GOP. In 1999, he accused party leaders of rigging the primary race against him for 2000, rigging it on behalf of George W. Bush. Buchanan decided to bolt the party. He would run, instead, he said, for the nomination of the Reform Party started a few years before by Ross Perot.
And that is when Pat Buchanan got some competition for the Reform Party nomination. Some surprise competition from a celebrity billionaire named Donald Trump.
Trump joined the Reform Party in 1999. He said he was looking at running for president and a lot of it was just like today. He disparaged enemies with schoolyard taunts. He talked about making Oprah his running mate. He claimed to be doing great in the polls even when he wasn`t. He became a one-man content machine for cable news channels.
So much so similar but with one very big difference between the Donald Trump of 1999 and the one we know today. That Pat Buchanan platform, the Donald Trump of 1999 wanted no part of it.
Critics accused Buchanan of flirting with racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and worse, and Trump said he agreed with them. He called Buchanan a Hitler lover, an anti-Semite. He said Buchanan was only drawing support from a staunch right whacko vote.
Trump wrote an op-ed attacking Buchanan. On slow days, Trump wrote, he attacks gays, immigrants, welfare recipients, even Zulus. When cornered, he says he`s misunderstood.
The tone was the same, but the content of Donald Trump`s message in 1999 could not be more different than what we`ve come to know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM RUSSERT, MSNBC HOST: Tomorrow, Pat Buchanan is announcing that he will be a candidate for the presidency on the Reform Party.
TRUMP: I just think it`s ridiculous. I mean, he wrote a book --
TRUMP: Because, look, he`s a Hitler lover. I guess, he`s an anti-Semite. He doesn`t like the Blacks. He doesn`t like the gays. It`s just incredible that anybody could embrace this guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, in the end, Trump backed out of that race. And critics said, hey, that was proof he`d never been serious in the first place. It was all just one big publicity stunt. And Pat Buchanan ended up getting one percent of the vote that November as the Reform Party candidate.
That`s a tiny total but it nonetheless changed history when a poorly designed ballot in Palm Beach County, Florida led many Al Gore supporters to accidentally check off Buchanan`s name. Even Buchanan said the votes were not intended for him. But they were counted for him in a state that delivered the presidency to George W. Bush by a grand total of 537 votes.
And the Bush presidency, of course -- or the Bush presidency gave us the Iraq war. It gave us Afghanistan. It ended with the financial crisis, economic meltdown. And it was sometime around then in post-bush America that Donald Trump did something very un-Trump like.
According to reporting from Tim Alberta in "POLITICO," Trump picked up the phone, called Pat Buchanan, quote, and apologized for all the hurtful things he had said.
He made amends, Bay Buchanan, Pat`s sister and former campaign manager, said of Trump. Long before he got into the presidential race, he reached out to Pat and apologized for what he`d done, realizing it had been wrong.
And then in the America forever altered by war and by economic catastrophe, Donald Trump set out to run in 2015 for president for real. This time on Pat Buchanan`s platform. And here we are in 2018, in Donald Trump`s America which was made in some ways by Pat Buchanan`s campaign in the `90s.
If you`d like to know more about how we got here, here`s the shameless plug part of it. You can read my new book, "The Red and The Blue, The 1990s And the Birth of Political Tribalism." It is available for pre-order now.
KORNACKI: Two of the least heard from voices in the resistance movement against President Trump coming out of the woodwork last night to make their pleas.
Former President Barack Obama, speaking to a group of Democrats. He tried to assure the audience, saying, quote, you are right to be concerned. But Obama also warned the crowd not to sit on their hands, waiting for what he called a magical savior.
No cameras were allowed in the event. "POLITICO" was one of the few news agencies with a reporter inside.
And according to "POLITICO," Obama told the crowd, quote, do not wait for the perfect message. Don`t wait to feel a tingle in your spine because you`re expecting politicians to be so inspiring and poetic and moving that somehow, OK, I`ll get off my couch, after all, and go spend the 15, 20 minutes it takes for me to vote. Because that`s part of what happened in the last election. I heard that too much. If we don`t vote, then this democracy doesn`t work.
"POLITICO" also reports the former president explained to Democrats that, quote, they would be foolish to believe that they`re in good shape to beat Trump just because they`ve been doing well in winning recent elections.
Also last night, former late-night host Jon Stewart took over the "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" to deliver a message that he aimed directly to Donald Trump and the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, FORMER HOST OF "THE LATE SHOW": I just want to say if there`s one hallmark to your presidency that, I think, we`re finding the most difficult is that no matter what you do, it always comes with an extra layer of gleeful cruelty and dickishness.
STEWART: It`s not just that --
STEWART: It`s not just that you don`t want people taking a knee. It`s that they`re sons of bitches if they do.
It`s not just denying women who accuse you of sexual assault. It`s saying they were too ugly anyway.
You can`t just be against the media. They`re enemies of the people.
It`s not even partisan. Anyone in the Republican Party dares speak against you, they also must be humiliated even if they have a terminal disease.
Which brings us to immigration. Boy, you (INAUDIBLE) that up.
Donald, you could have absolutely made a more stringent border policy that would have made your point about enforcement. But it wouldn`t have felt right without a Dickensian level of villainy. You casually separated people seeking asylum from their children, from babies.
What Lincoln said in his Cooper Union speech was to point out the one thing southern slaveholders really wanted from the free states -- this and only this, cease to call slavery wrong and join them in calling it right.
It was on this point that Lincoln said the union could not bend. And what Donald Trump wants is for us to stop calling his cruelty and fear and divisiveness wrong but to join him in calling it right. And this we cannot do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: After the break, Zerlina Maxwell, Evan Siegfried, and Maria Teresa Kumar are all going to join me to discuss the latest in that resistance movement against the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Everything`s off its axis. It`s a little unusual. Apparently, now, Putin and Kim Jong-un are noble, intelligent role models, and Canada is a bunch of giant (INAUDIBLE).
Like, that`s hard to get used to. You`re redoing the post-war alliances, only this time we`re with the Axis powers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Joining us now is Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive programming at SiriusXM radio and an MSNBC political analyst. Maria Teresa Kumar and Evan Siegfried are back with us.
Zerlina, let me start with you. We don`t have the video of it, but we got those quotes from "POLITICO."
ZERLINA MAXWELL, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING, SIRIUSXM: Yes.
KORNACKI: President -- or former President Obama talking to a group of Democrats last night. The thing that struck me was he was describing himself.
KORNACKI: He was describing how Democrats reacted to him when he sort of rose to the presidency in the first place. And he was saying, don`t be looking for that, don`t be waiting for that. But did Democrats need that?
MAXWELL: Well, I think that a lot of people are waiting for that. But I think Barack Obama was really once in a lifetime, not just as a historical figure but as someone who has both the policy chops and the charisma. That`s almost like a unicorn.
And so what Democrats need to do is essentially focus on turnout because that is what`s going to win the election in 2018 and also in 2020. You saw in 2016 that turnout was down among many of the most important groups in the Democratic base.
Black turnout was down. Latino turnout was down. And so you have to ensure that our voters get to the polls and cast their ballot. There is no other way to change this country.
KORNACKI: And, Evan, the flip side of this is we look at, by all indications right now, a motivated Democratic base, at least in 2018 in the midterm. The number that strikes me on the Republican side, though, is President Trump`s support from Republican voters. It`s sitting there at 90 percent right now.
And if you look at modern presidents within their own parties, his is about as high as it gets, which is even more striking because his overall number is not that great.
Is there -- what is it that drives that? Because this is a guy that got less than half the vote among Republicans in 2016 in their primaries, and yet now this is like W after 9/11 with them.
SIEGFRIED: You`re forgetting one thing, the Republican Party has been shrinking. And the people who support him are the ones staying, so, of course, you`re going to have closer to a hundred percent than zero percent.
You know, when -- between December 2015 and March 2017, 23 percent of Republicans aged 18 to 29 left the party compared to eight percent of Democrats. We have a massive demographic crisis in this party.
And that we can only really field an electorate to help sustain us for maybe two, three more cycles, unless we start appealing to other groups. And that includes African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, gays, and even urban Americans, which Republicans don`t even compete in any more.
There are tumbleweeds running for office that do better than Republican candidates.
SIEGFRIED: And it`s disappointing.
KORNACKI: There was a study this week that came out, that was studying millennials, that I found interesting. And it showed that the number who identified as Democrats actually in the last couple years had dropped by a fairly significant number. I think it was about a nine-point drop, and it was attributed most directly to White male millennials.
And the suggestion was that the way our politics are all playing out right now -- you know, everything, in politics and in life, there`s a reaction, right? And in Democrats, we`ve seen this rise of female candidates this year at historic levels. Is there a possibility there that, you know, there`s sort of a subsequent defection of males to the Republican Party? Is that --
SIEGFRIED: I wouldn`t say it`s a defection of males to the Republican Party. NBC News and Gen Forward did an amazing survey in January which found that 66 percent of millennials want a third party.
They look at government and they see something that`s broken. They think they can impact change more effectively from a nonprofit than they can by actually voting.
So the key is rebuilding trust in government, and you have to actually accomplish things as a government. And that means doing things in a bipartisan manner. And right now, that`s not happening.
So we have to vote for candidates who are willing to reach across the aisle and say, you know what, we might not agree a hundred percent but let`s do something good for the country.
KORNACKI: Maria Teresa Kumar, I`m curious, when you look at that -- and we played, you know, Jon Stewart there, that soliloquy on Colbert`s show last night. And obviously, that speaks, I think, you know, directly to, you know, Democratic voters out there, folks who are offended by the President.
But I do wonder, that level of activation, does that trigger a backlash among Republican voters at all that cause it -- that binds them to Trump in response? Where, yes, maybe we don`t like Trump on this, maybe we don`t like him on that, but, hey, he`s under such attack, we better stick with him because we don`t want to be with the other side?
KUMAR: Well, I think that you -- what you speak to, Steve, is that we actually have to create a space where people could admit that they voted for the wrong candidate. And by constantly attacking and trying to label all Republicans with a broad brush, saying they are bigoted or racist, it actually doesn`t improve or advance a political agenda.
It doesn`t heal wounds. It doesn`t allow people to come forward and say, you know what, I thought that I was going to get something else, but, in reality, this man is a con man. And people get back to their corners.
But let`s be clear, in the next three years, we`re going to have a tsunami of young Generation Z voters voting for the first time. We`re expecting 12 million voters who are becoming eligible, two-thirds of them young people of color. Disproportionately, there are going to be 12 million more voters than baby boomers.
So you have that faction, then you also have the 93 million of Americans who decided that they were going to sit it out. They didn`t want either party. And I think that not only are a majority of Americans identifying more with independent, they also want people to feel that they`re providing them with actual solutions.
When you look at what happened in Virginia, it was down-ballot candidates that were speaking to issues that people cared about, bread and butter issues, how to fix community, how to talk to each other, how to be civil, about providing solutions.
And that is, at the end of the day, what American people want to talk about. They are tired of pendulum elections, but they`re also tired of the stress level that they`re feeling every single time the President tweets.
If anything, they want to tone it down, they want to get back to basics, and they want to be able to know that, tomorrow, there is going to be a new America. The majority of Americans are incredibly hopeful, and the President is providing very little hope but a lot of chaos.
KORNACKI: And, Zerlina, that generational shift that Maria Teresa Kumar is talking about there, I thought, this week, we got an example of that.
KORNACKI: New York, Joe Crowley, one of the top Democrats in D.C., he is toppled by a 28-year-old Latina.
I wonder, when we look ahead to 2020, if you take a poll right now, to the extent these things mean anything, the front-runners on the Democratic side are Joe Biden who, I think, will be 78 at the end of 2020, Bernie Sanders, well into his 70s, Elizabeth Warren who will be in her 70s. Is that generational shift going to mean trouble for the candidates who, right now, enter this thing, on paper, in the strongest position?
MAXWELL: I think it will be a problem if they can`t appeal to that young demographic of voters.
I think that we definitely do have a structural problem in terms of the pipeline of candidates that can rise and become presidential contenders in the Democratic Party. That`s absolutely true. That`s why you don`t have the age diversity in terms of the 2020 prospects.
But I do think that there are a number of candidates that are -- that you mentioned. I think Elizabeth Warren absolutely can appeal to that millennial demographic that Evan was speaking to because they are a lot more progressive than the baby boomer generation. They are for marriage equality. They are for choice.
And so with those issues becoming, I think, front and center as we go into the midterm elections with a Supreme Court vacancy now going to be at the center of the fight, I do think that`s going to encourage the Republican base to turn out.
But at the -- the flip side of that is that there are a lot of millennials who have no capacity to imagine a world where there is no access to birth control, where there is no access to legal and safe abortion. They have -- that`s not happened in my lifetime. That`s not happened in a millennial`s lifetime.
And so I think that this is going to be an election that is really for the fight of the soul of the country and the moral center, but that is all about this millennial generation being more progressive than our mothers and our grandmothers.
KORNACKI: Evan, listening to you diagnose the Republican predicament as you see it and saying they need to change on all of these things, are you one of those Republicans, sort of like George Will, who wants them to lose this November to precipitate that change?
SIEGFRIED: It`s not necessarily that I want them to lose. I want them to wake up and recognize that there is the sky falling.
KORNACKI: But do they need to lose to recognize that?
SIEGFRIED: I think they need to listen to smart people. To be honest with you, I think Democrats can actually blow it in 2020. If you nominate somebody who is too far and outside of the mainstream and more beholden to the Bernie base than to the more moderates and the independent voters, you`re not going to win.
That`s why I actually believe the smartest ticket Democrats could run would be Joe Biden and Seth Moulton. No drama and just returning to decency.
KORNACKI: All right. Zerlina Maxwell, Maria Teresa Kumar, Evan Siegfried, thank you for that.
And tonight`s last word is next.
KORNACKI: And time for tonight`s last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We got more money. We got more brains. We got better houses, apartments. We got nicer boats. We`re smarter than they are, and they say, the elite! We`re the elite.
And I thought that was so brilliant. I said, oh, I am so smart. I am the smartest person. I`m smarter than anybody.
A thing comes out, a big poll, and a couple of polls, a number of polls that he is the most powerful, most popular Republican in the history of the party.
SETH MEYERS, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS: Oh, my god, dude, get a therapist.
MEYERS: I know you`re cheap, but get a therapist. Trump is like a guy at a bar who acts as his own wingman.
MEYERS: My buddy thinks you`re cute. He`s smart and handsome and popular, and he`s me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s tonight`s last word. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.
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